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Tips for parents of young children

Activities help kids stay busy

Children can be the most vulnerable individuals in a hurricane. Here are some ways to help your kids cope during and after a storm.

SUPPLIES

 

  • Stock up on any special medication or food that your children will need.
  • Let children gather cherished keepsakes for reassurance.
  • Make sure you have plenty of DVDs, video and board games, books and coloring and activity books available for during and after the storm.
  • Keep flashlights and batteries on hand.
  • For infants, get powdered formula to prepare using bottled water. Also lots of baby wipes for sponge bathing and Purell for washing hands.

 

STAYING BUSY

 

  • If you have a DVD player, the kids can stay busy watching movies while you use your portable TV and radio to keep track of the storm.
  • Make a game of gathering supplies. It can become a scavenger hunt.
  • Let children help with cleanup, so they feel like they belong and are contributing to recovery.
  • Even after the power’s back on, schools might still be closed for weeks and travel discouraged during cleanup. Have activities in mind.
  • Have fun! Pitch a tent in the living room.

 

SIGNS OF STRESS

 

  • Children of different ages will handle the situation differently. Younger children might cling more, and teenagers more combative or sullen.
  • Signs of post-storm stress in children may include a decreased appetite or trouble sleeping. Urge them to eat well and drink lots of water. Try to stick to their regular bedtime.
  • Other signs of stress can include headaches or stomach aches; reluctance or refusal to go to bed; nightmares; insomnia; a return to behaviors such as clinging, bed wetting or thumb-sucking; temper tantrums; reduced attention span; fighting; trouble in school; withdrawal; loss of appetite; and in older children, drug or alcohol use.

 

REASSURANCE

 

  • Emphasize to kids that they are safe. Tell them before the storm, as gently as possible, that disasters can happen. Answer their questions honestly and accurately, using words and terms they can understand.
  • Help kids get through feelings of resentment that their routine has been upended. Give them lots of hugs and attention. Let them express their feelings in conversations, drawings or activities.
  • After the storm, if you have been hit hard, admit you are also scared, frustrated and depressed but that you are confident things will eventually return to normal and that it’s critical to have a good attitude.
  • Decide how many television images of the disaster you want your children to see.

 

More information

FEMA Kids page: http://www.ready.gov/kids. It includes preparation tips and Scavenger Hunt forms.

FEMA publishes storm preparation books for kids, in age-appropriate versions.  Click here to download before a storm.

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